Indiana Pacers fan Sean Shepard laments, "I miss the guys from the '90s, Tank Thompson, the Davis boys, Haywood Workman, Sam Mitchell and many others. Heck even Rik Smits. Those were good guys who worked hard and were worth rooting for.”
Shepard could be any NBA fan, in any city. The complaint about the quality of play and quality of players is universal. David Stern knows about it. He knows that the NBA as a whole is underachieving as a marketable sports entity. The once strong must see NBA is now bleeding.
Sports are a reflection of society. Are people today naturally lazier than those in successive generations? I don’t think so. However the incentives aren't clear cut anymore. Extrinsic rewards are at an all time high. We will gladly hype, tout, and promote any kid who dominates on the AAU or summer camp level. Fans, media and pro basketball management don’t expect players to help their teams win basketball games, we just expect them to be highly touted coming out of college. How do you become highly touted out of AAU? Size, good hands, and the most ridiculous phrase, “great upside.”
How did it get this way? Universities have exploited players for a long time. Now the prospect guys are exploiting talent by latching themselves onto so-called hot players. They invite them to their super camp, their AAU team. It’s shoe contracts and letters of intent, and not the peach basket ten feet up.
How can those associated with basketball change the direction of the game? We must eliminate or reduce the extrinsic rewards. For example, create less hype before a player has a chance to show over time his/her true ability and contribution to the game of basketball. Also as basketball fans, we only talk and spread news about players we have actually seen play.